Five months ago, we walked into a cramped, odorous space, with low ceilings, mustard yellow paint, built-in shelving, a chaotic electric system, and an ongoing list of other issues. A true can of worms.
But we saw the space differently. We saw the potential, through the veil of disrepair, and decided to create the aptly named Sweatshop Gallery, located in the heart of Benson. Originally 7 artists involved, the Sweatshop team consists of 6 artists who have been working hard to renovate the space, despite our collective lack of funds.
Since stepping into the Sweatshop, we have put down personal equity as well as hosted fundraising events, such as Mudwrestling, Bull-Riding, and a Glass-Breaking party. All successful, all exciting. The money we’ve collected has gone to pay for new walls, lighting, lumber, paint, and labor (although our labor has mainly been donations of time and sweat from community members). But thus far, we’ve only scratched the surface of one of our three rooms. Funding will benefit the renovation of the space into (among other uses) gallery, studio, office, and darkroom spaces.
Most of the members of the Sweatshop Gallery have been facilitating the Benson First Friday monthly art walks, including co-founders Jamie Danielle Hardy and myself, Alex Jochim. (Other members of the Sweatshop Gallery project are Kim Reid-Kuhn, Dan Cavanagh, Sarah Rowe, and Caitlin Little). We bring the community together every month and invite them to do something, try something, and see something different, as well as inspire the community creatively. We plan to continue this via the Sweatshop Gallery. We also want to provide new opportunities and provide a communal space in Omaha for local and national artists to show their work, host an art-driven event, and inspire them to work. Through collaborations with media artists, hosting DIY workshops, art education workshops, we plan on impacting the community.
Although we’ve been working on the space since mid-July, we’ve only reached our first deadline of having new walls, ceilings, and lights in our front gallery space. Our next deadline is January 2013 to fully renovate the front room and begin the renovation of our back room. Beyond that, we’d like to begin renovation on our upstairs space into office and community darkroom space. By Spring 2013, we hope to be fully completed.